Posts Tagged ‘public speaking audience management’

Public Speaking: Getting Applause

Friday, June 26th, 2009

applause pleaseThere are some presentations you do where applause is desirable and appropriate. We’ve already discussed optimal audience seating that will facilitate audience reaction and applause. In this entry you will discover the nuances  and lines the presenter can employ to increase audience applause. Much of what I’ve learned about earning applause comes from my performance in entertaining rather than strictly business presentations. Nevertheless the lesson lends itself to many types of public speaking.

Keep in mind, audiences need a cue to applaud because they subconsciously fear applauding at the wrong time, or being the only person clapping.

Here are both subtle (for business) and bold (for entertainment) methods to encourage applause.

During your presentation at an “applause moment”:

1) Ask audience to give a round of applause to someone who helped you.

2) “Thank you for your enthusiasm”

3) If it’s silent: “Save your applause till the end – I have a weak finish.”

4) When only one person applauds: “I think you just woke up the others” OR  “Are the rest of you saving it for the big finish?” OR “I will wow you one person at a time” OR “Special thanks to my fan club” (pointing to the one person)

5) “Oh, I forgot to tell you, your applause will be recorded”

6) “There are two ways we can do this (show,demo) like we’re doing it now, or with applause.”

7) “Hey, I know you’re out there, I can hear you breathing”

8)  “Instead of applauding, why don’t we all hold hands and try to join with the LIVING”

To get applause at the end of your presentation

“Thank you” Take a slight bow with a light clap of the hands and take a small step back.

While the best way to earn applause is to do an excellent job, these nuances and lines make all the difference with respect to creating the right atmosphere conducive to applause.  Remember to use your judgement when tossing a quip into the mix.

present awards and control applause

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Public Speaking: Layout and Floor Plan

Friday, January 30th, 2009

In our recent blog about rude audiences, we referred to the fact that the speaker disseminated information rather than communicating and connecting with the audience.  This helped cultivate an environment conducive to chitter chatter.  Upon reflection, more variables come into play.  

The first is seating.  While technically this was not a “seating” issue because much of the audience was standing, the same guidelines apply:  the denser the population the more they pay attention.  Scattered audiences have scattered attention spans.  This certainly contributed to the five private conversations that broke out while the speaker was presenting.

The second is room layout and floor plan.  Given the choice, It is always better to have a room that is slightly too small rather than too big. It it makes the event seem like it was a sell-out.  “They packed the room!” will be the reviews.  In addition, you avoid the scattered population problem.  Finally, the speaker has more relative presence; so both she and her message are less likely to get lost in the room.

The third variable is speaker positioning in the room.  Most rooms are rectangular, and in such cases the speaker is best positioned on a short end.  The “less square” the room, the more important this becomes.  Presenting from the the long side of a “flattened” rectangle will destroy your impact on the audience.  It dilutes your focus, voice and eye contact and INVITES the temptation for your audience members begin talking amongst themselves.  Most audience members will resist the temptation to speak aloud; instead they will engage in their own internal dialogue.  For example: “I better get working on my 3rd quarter presentation for next week, I wonder if Bob has started his?”  Some rude or ignorant members will simply startup a conversation.

Looking at our rude audience scenario, my bet is that had these layout issues been addressed in advanced, there may have been only one or no private conversations ensuing while the Chamber Officer was presenting . . . rather than five.

When you are public speaking, command your battlefield by controlling your layout and floor plan whenever possible.  Always keep in mind, a wider and more dispersed audience requires far more presentational skill on your part than does a narrow and densely populated audience.

In short: how and where they sit/stand will be a significant factor in how much they feel that they “liked” your presentation.  As always, it’s all in the nuances.

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Public Speaking: Rude Audience

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Is it rude to carry on a conversation while a speaker is formally addressing the audience?

Tonight I attended a chamber of commerce annual meeting.  About eighty people comprised the audience. While an officer was publicly addressing the group regarding new member introductions, past and upcoming events and member recognition, I did what I always do . . . look around the room.

Here is what I observed: FIVE private on-going conversations overtly being conducted.  Surprised?  I was. Sure, you usually see a couple of people whispering . . .  but FIVE conversations?

Here is what happened:  The speaker, though professional and organized, simply disseminated information from behind the podium. In our last blog we talked about the difference between disseminating information and communicating/connecting with the audience.  What I usually see when a speaker disseminates instead of communicates is that audience members QUIETLY tune out.  If you look, you will see it in their eyes.  However, in this case, some tuned out and tuned right into their own conversations.  In my humble opinion that is rude.

I was a speaker at this event; so I knew I would have my work cut out for me.  I had brought a wireless headset mic and my own amplifier – just in case.  Generally, for eighty people I would not use a mic, but after seeing the chitter-chatter that the preceding speaker had to deal with, I plugged right in.  Volume always helps.

After I was introduced and received applause, I noticed there were three people near the front engrossed in their own conversation.  Only yawns are more contagious that chit-chat.  I knew that if left unchecked that distraction would lead to others, and I would end up with the same five groups of private conversations.

I’m not about to hush other adults as if they were children.  At the same time, I’m not going to let anyone distract the rest of my audience, and thusly diminish the impact of my message.

Here is the technique I always use to solve the problem of “chit-chats”: I present directly to them until the first looks up at me and quickly shuts up.  In an instant the others fall silent as well.  The longer it takes them to realize I’m presenting right to them, the more the rest of the audience starts to focus on them, and the more impact the technique has.

The bonus to this technique is that others will understand that it’s not okay to have an extended conversation while I’m presenting.

In this particular case it was a bit awkward, as I’ve never had a conversation ensue directly after being introduced. I used my technique for about two minutes, which FEELS like an eternity.  That’s how long it took this woman to look up and notice.  Once she did – problem solved.

On to the presentation where I try a new demonstration based on the psychology of persuasion and it unexpectedly FAILS.  When you take the risk, sometimes you fall flat on your face, and this was one of those rare occasions.  In my next blog, I will share what happened and how I handled it.

For now, you have a powerful technique for handling rude audience members when public speaking.

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